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Alberta prohibits random street checks by police officers

Leaders in Calgary and Alberta’s Black communities are cautiously optimistic after the province stepped towards ending the practice of random carding.

But there is still work to be done, they said.

On Thursday (Nov. 19) Alberta’s government banned random carding and has established clear rules for common interactions between police and the public to ensure the rights of Albertans are protected.

“I’m in shock, given Madu’s comments as of late,” said Taylor McNallie, a prominent Black activist in Calgary and Alberta.

“It keeps us motivated to continue moving forward.”

These changes to provincial policing standards ban police in Alberta from randomly stopping members of the public and asking for personal information. It’s a practice known as carding.

“Members of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities in Alberta expressed concerns about carding and street checks,” said Kaycee Madu, Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

“We have a responsibility to act on those legitimate concerns.”

Police officers at a protest in Calgary (OMAR SHERIF/FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

Change is happening, but work still needs to be done

The new rules are effective immediately. The government will formalize them as amendments to the Police Service Regulation in 2021.

But while random street checks have been banned, police are still able to card if there is a link to a crime.

Officers can collect personal information from members of the public only in specific circumstances. They can ask members of the public about a crime that has taken place.

Now, these interactions will be voluntary, the province said. Officers must make it clear at the outset of the interaction that citizens have no obligation to provide their personal information or answer questions.

“We are pleased the provincial government has recognized the importance of the street check process and the role it plays in public safety,” said Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld.

He said that in 2016, the Calgary Police took strong measures to ensure processes around street checks and the collection of personal information were sound.

Police services will now be required to train officers to comply with the new ruled. Public education will be provided so citizens know their rights when interacting with the police.

Police departments will be required to file quarterly reports to the province on the checks they’ve conducted.

But some say that’s still not good enough.

McNallie criticized the government, saying that Minister Madu went as far as calling this a historic moment, only a day after calling activists “radical” in a tweet.

She is calling on Minister Madu to reach out and have conversations with activist organizations before creating motions that she says are useless and do nothing to protect racialized bodies.

“Only together can we create an environment that is safe and secure for all people,” said McNallie.

‘Show us that this isn’t just a PR stunt’

Others have also expressed skepticism towards the decision.

The process of carding and street checks has made many people within ethnic minority groups feel uncomfortable and unsafe, and continues to do so.

“I can’t help but wonder what is really driving this announcement,” said Samuel Crowfoot, a councillor for the Siksika First Nation.

“Are we supposed to express gratitude to the police for committing to no longer violate our rights?”

He questioned whether this was just a publicity stunt designed as preemptive damage control.

“First Nations people are sick of hearing empty words and promises,” said Crowfoot. “Show us that this isn’t just a PR stunt.”